Welcome to the ABA! Bell Talk Forums Small Bells Unique Sleigh Bells

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    • #11036

      Steven in Vermont writes:

      I recently purchased a set of sleigh bells that have a phrase on them “all forces in governing man is unphilosophical”. I heard thru Rita Walker that there may be 6 phrases total. I want to know more about these bells is there only 6 phrases, who made them, are they circuit rider bells? How old are they, how do I go about finding more information about them. What do these phrases mean? Where do I look to find our more about these very unique bells? Thank you Steven

      If you can help, please post a response.

      This inquiry was originally sent to the ABA’s Internet Coordinator. Responses are opinions of individuals based on their personal research and knowledge.

    • #14353

      Marie in Maine writes:

      I could tell Steve the rest of the 6 sayings, the size of the crotals and who has them that I know of. Little is really known obout these – nothing bonafide other than they are in existence. Circuit Rider is what someone along the line dubbed them – no one knows, at least no one has ever come forward. Springer mentions them and Marion Bradley mentioned them in an ABA supplement. I have a strap.

      This response was originally sent to the ABA’s Internet Coordinator. Responses are opinions of individuals based on their personal research and knowledge.

    • #14354
      Steven Noble

      Marie Would you please give me more info as to orgin of the bell ? Was there only a small number made ? Was it only for a specific occasion or religion, etc?? Thanks Steve

    • #14355
      Carolyn Whitlock

      At the April 2009 meeting of the New England Chapter of ABA in Shoreham, VT, Marie organized an exhibit of Circuit Rider Bells. Steve Noble was a guest at the meeting. Marie prepared a handout and has given me permission to reprint it here.

      “Circuit Rider” Bells – Real? or Myth?
      by Marie Varian

      The bells are real. The ‘circuit rider’ label is speculative – as yet, no one has come forward with any information as to who made the bells, where they were made, or why they were made.

      What DO we know about these bells?

        They are brass.
        They have shanks for attachment to leather straps (i.e., sleigh bells).
        A side view shows they are shaped something like a mushroom instead of the typical crotal shape. They have two core holes.
        They have a decorative design on each of side of the throat. The same design is on each bell, but is enlarged or reduced depending upon the bell’s size.
        There are six graduated sizes (that I know of) and each is marked accordingly.
        Diameters of the six sizes are (without calipers):

        #1 – 1 1/8″
        #2 – ?
        #3 – ?
        #4 – 2 1/16″
        #5 – 2 7/16″
        #6 – ?

      Each size has a different saying inscribed around the outer edge of the underneath side:

      #1 Reform in all things
      #2 Truth for effect but love to direct
      #3 All force in man is governing, unphilosophical
      #4 He is the infidel, who is the enemy of justice and humanity
      #5 That nation is the safest, which is most kind to its enemies
      #6 Which, among the nations, will be the first in treating its worst enemies kindly?

      Lois Springer mentions these bells on page 156 in The Collector’s Book of Bells (1972). Perhaps people’s usage of the term “circuit rider” started with Ms. Springer. She wrote of a dealer in upstate New York as having “a string” and she opined “that may once have belonged to a circuit rider of philosophical persuasions.” Ms. Springer cited the wording on sizes #1, #2, and #3, but did not mention having knowedge of any other sizes.

      Marion and George Bradley wrote of these bells in an older Bell Tower supplement, and aptly called them a mystery. At the time, the Bradleys had six of these bells (sizes #1, #2, and #4) and were looking for more. They also were hoping to find some answers but, in spite of a good amount of research, were unsuccessful.

      A display of all but a #2 will take place on April 25th at the combined New England and Adirondack chapters meeting in Shoreham, Vermont. Robert Thompson is bringing a #6, Steve Noble is bringing a strap of #3, and Mickey and Marie Varian are bringing #1 and a strap of mixed #4 and #5.

      If anyone has knowledge of the origin of these unique bells, the writer would greatly appreciate receiving any piece of information. Email: sebasco@midcoast.com

      Marie Varian’s display of “Circuit Rider” bells.

      A circuit rider is a concept particularly related to the history of American Methodism. In sparsely populated areas of the United States it always has been common for clergy in many denominations to serve more than one congregation at a time, but the pattern of organization in the Methodist Episcopal denomination and its successors lends itself especially well to multiple-congregation service.

      Because of the distance between churches, these preachers would ride on horseback. They were popularly called circuit riders or saddlebag preachers. These frontier clergy were never officially called “circuit riders,” but the name was appropriate and it “stuck.” Officially they were called “traveling” clergy (a term that is still used in Methodist denominations). They traveled with few possessions, carrying only what could fit in their saddlebags. They traveled through wilderness and villages, they preached every day at any place available (peoples’ cabins, courthouses, fields, meeting houses, later even basements and street corners). Unlike clergy in urban areas, Methodist circuit riders were always on the move. Many circuits were so large that it would take 5 to 6 weeks to cover them. (Source: Wikipedia)

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